Blog Blast from the Past: A Special Christmas Message from the 2007 Amana Holiday House Walk


Back in 2006–2007 I got my kicks by writing a MySpace blog. I had the wherewithal to copy and paste each blog post to a Word doc and save them all before MySpace was obliterated by the internet’s black hole of modern social media.

I want to share this particular passage from Christmastime 2007. It is one of my all-time favorite experiences and is a gift that keeps on giving.

Title:
The sky is falling

So I was driving around Amana yesterday during the worst weather event to take place thus far in the winter of 2007. I was driving around in a company-issued Ford Windstar, and an inch or so of iced rain glazed the roads and highways.

After spending an hour de-icing the Windstar, and breaking one scraper, I had hit the road, only to find the engine light was illuminated on this particular vehicle. Now I know why the boss was eager to loan me the Windstar. It was a piecer.

Reports of five-car pileups on Interstate 80 were already filtering in, so I avoided the state highways. All of the DOT trucks would be busy on I-80, thus leaving Highway 6 none for the taking. So I resorted to taking the back roads.

F15 is the county road that snakes north of Marengo and links up with the Amanas. It is the busiest county road, so I knew the county trucks would have it sanded, and true they did. I saw two county trucks, and followed one of them, as I trolled at 30 mph down F15.

So I gripped the fucking steering wheel, watching the county maintainer splash sand all over the highway, glancing at the dashboard light, watching for any differences in the temperature or RPM gauge. Luckily, my first stop, High Amana, was only 7 miles away, so at 30 mph, the drive took about 15 minutes.

I was taking pictures for the annual Amana holiday house walk. These five different homeowners decorate their houses lavishly in Christmas attire. Then people walk around and admire the Christmas stylings. The Amana Christmas house walk is legendary, and I wanted to get some photos for the paper this year.

Gordon Kellenberger, renowned painter, was spearheading this event. Gordon paints landscapes in vibrant, lush pastels, and sells his work worldwide. An Amana native, he is active in the community and I always enjoy talking with him. Gordon’s house was part of the house walk, and one of the reasons I wanted to go on the house walk was to snoop around his home and studio.

The road maintainer obligingly led me to High Amana safely, and I pulled into the Amana Arts Guild, the first stop on the house walk. When I walked into the building, it was deserted, except for a tray of neatly arranged cookies and a pot of hot cider. I helped myself since I skipped breakfast, and began to wander around.

The gallery was full of different samples of art: paintings, pottery, basketry, wood carvings, etc.; all made by local artisans. As I wandered the door opened, and Gordon and an elderly lady walked in. I recognized the woman as Janet, an Amana local who I had chatted with at the John Edwards campaign rally. I had also seen her at all the other Democratic candidate visits this fall. Janet always has a smile, and has always been very friendly, so things were already looking up.

They both bellowed warm greetings. We engaged in small talk, and Gordon said, in reference to the weather and small turnout for the house walk, “I kinda feel like I am all dressed up for prom and got stood up by my date.”

Anyway, Gordon went to his house across the alley, and I was left with Janet as my tour guide to the arts guild gallery. She was knowledgable about the local artists and the types of work they make.

Bill Metz is a local tinsmith. One of his pieces is a mold for the traditional Amana wedding cake. He is the only remaining tinsmith who knows how to make this particular mold. There were paintings by local artist Christine Miller, birdhouses by woodworker so-and-so and so on and on.

I had Janet arrange a table with samples of the art, so I could take a picture. At some point I mentioned I was going to Japan for New Year’s to visit Lisa.

And so Janet, this sweet, little old, liberal lady, says to me, “I have a friend in California who said all of the red Chinese are taking over the country. She says they pull into the harbor and thousands of them come over in each boat.”

I was a bit taken back, but after working in Iowa County for over two years, I was used to racist bombs being dropped every now and then.

Then Janet says, “Do you know about the Illuminati?”

And I said, “sure.” After all, I have read the Illuminati trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson. I know all about the Illiminati.

And Janet says, “The Illuminati rule the world from behind the scenes. They are sending over everybody to America.”

Then Janet says, “Have you heard of the chem trails?”

This was new to me. So, “no,” I said.

“Well, you know when the jets fly overhead, and they leave the vapors of steam behind them that spread out over the sky?”

“Sure,” I said, happy that I was still able to follow her.

“Well,” said Janet. “They aren’t steam vapors or exhaust. People don’t believe me, but the planes are really dropping chemicals over America. They are poisoning America. I looked in my bird bath the other day and there was red stuff in it, and I know it was the chemicals the planes are dropping on us.”

And that’s when I said, “Why don’t we take that picture?”

I vaguely follow the message from the Celestine Prophecy, with the belief that if you talk to someone long enough they will share an important life message with you. And there I was in the legendary arts guild of High Amana in the middle of an ice storm. I felt like I had traveled into the abyss and this was the message that was waiting for me. Only it was a bunch of hooey.

I went over to Gordon’s house, and toured his studio. His wife, DeAnna, also an artist, gave me the tour. DeAnna does more found art, and most of her work is based off the parables from Jesus. She talked a lot about Jesus and stuff, and that might have been the message I was supposed to receive that day.

In my heart I know I was really supposed to hear about Janet’s chem trails.


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